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July 30, 2003

Children Need To Get Out And Play

Amazing New Scientific Concept!

Something I discovered in the process of growing up in London was that bombed buildings make great playgrounds. All-round adventure parks without any admission fee. Makeshift rafts transform flooded basements into eerie pirates' caves. A surviving corner with some pieces of floor still attached becomes the neighborhood North Wall of the Eiger. After raising three sons and three daughters, I can testify that young people are not designed to sit for hours in silent, obedient rows, listening to droning adults. Their way of learning about the world is to explore it. When I came to the States in the seventies, I was astounded to learn of children commencing school at 7:00 A.M. and being passed like a production line from class to class with only a half-hour break in the middle of the day. It couldn't work.

And now, it seems, Science has vindicated my suspicions. In an article entitled Hyperactivity 'just high spirits', the UK's BBC News reports that Profesor Priscilla Alderson, an expert in childhood studies at London's Institute of Education, believes that such conditions as Attention Deficit Disorder and mild autism are being over-diagnosed, and millions of kids are perhaps being alarmed, bullied, and drugged into compliance and semi-somnambulance unnecessarily. It could be that they're being cooped up in homes and classrooms too much, she says, and not allowed to run off their energies in parks and playgrounds. Really? My word! I mean, how do these people do it?

According to Professor Alderson, the mania for finding maladjusted kids everywhere is driven by money. (Surprise.) Psychologists want the work and lower the diagnosis threshold accordingly. Not surprisingly, the professionals on the other side disagree. A spokeswoman for the National Autism Society found it ". . . disappointing that reputable diagnosis is being questioned." Just imagine -- questioning the need to drug millions of children. Whatever next?

 
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